Watching the World
● Torture chambers are by no means a thing of the past, according to Amnesty International, a London-based human-rights organization. Its 1982 annual report shows that 121 nations around the world still resort to torture and execution in their treatment of political dissidents. The report says that interrogation proceedings used by many governments include electric shocks, burnings with cigarettes or a hot iron, beatings with barbed wire, sexual abuse, amputations and psychological tactics. It also recorded 3,278 executions of political prisoners, including some children, in 1981. In its effort to rally international action against such brutality, the report asserts: “Governments must not be allowed to evade responsibility when they choose to obliterate suspected opponents.”
Korean View of Churches
● After a hundred years of evangelizing by Christendom’s churches in Korea, what is the native non-Christian’s view of the churches and their members? The Korea Times, in reporting the findings of a nationwide poll, says that while some acknowledged the churches’ contribution in the areas of education and charity, the majority mentioned “church schism,” “difference between words and deeds” and “excessive occupation with money matters” as negative points. The poll also finds that so-called Christians are being viewed as “more egoistic, more money-grabbing and less conscientious” than non-Christians. And the majority of the people feel that “there are too many churches in the country.” However, the Times article adds: “Regardless of their non-faith, 70 percent of the pollees highly evaluate the greatness of the Bible.”
War Deaths Since 1960
● In just over two decades since 1960, more than 10.7 million people, civilian and military, have been killed in wars all around the world. So says the latest edition of World Military and Social Expenditures, published annually by a private research organization called World Priorities. The report lists 65 wars fought in 49 countries, which represent about two thirds of the world’s population. Only wars in which over a thousand people are killed are included. The figures are said to be incomplete because governments often make no effort to get an accurate count of civilian casualties. Among countries that have lost over a million lives in wars since 1960 are: Bangladesh (1,500,000), Nigeria (2,000,000), Vietnam (2,080,000) and Cambodia (2,310,000).
Realities of Politics
● “There’s a lot of hypocrisy . . . and so forth in political life,” said former U.S. President Richard Nixon in a recent TV interview. “It’s necessary in order to get into office and in order to retain office.” In speaking about political campaigning, he said: “As a candidate, you have to dissemble, you have to recognize that you can’t say what you think about an individual because you may have to use him or need him sometime in the future.” He felt that when a politician or a president says something he does not believe, it should not be viewed as lying; it is just a part of politics.
● A three-day National Seminar on Astrology held in New Delhi, India, last January highlighted a modern twist in that ancient craft of stargazing and palmistry. The inaugural speech was given by India’s agriculture minister, and the speaker of the lower house of parliament also addressed the seminar. “People in the most powerful sectors of Indian society are involved with it,” said a high government official who was there as an amateur astrologer. Participants included professors, politicians, computer scientists, movie stars, business executives and others. But why is astrology so attractive to the educated upper and middle class? In today’s high-stress, competitive and uncertain society, people look to astrology as “part of the structure of the society that answers questions,” said an observer at the seminar. A 14th-generation astrologer from Calcutta added: “Everybody wants to prosper.”
British Churches Surveyed
● A year-end survey of church membership in Britain showed that “one person in every six who attended church at Christmas 10 years ago will not be there next weekend,” said the December 19, 1982, issue of Sunday Telegraph. The survey revealed that only 17 percent of the adult population went to church regularly, and it gave the percentage drop since 1970 of the six main denominations as follows:
Roman Catholic -14%
Church of Scotland -17%
United Reformed -23%
In contrast, the report mentioned that Jehovah’s Witnesses enjoyed further increase in Britain. There was an average of 83,564 Witnesses in the British Isles last year, a 3-percent increase over the previous year.
● Ridership of New York City’s subways has fallen to its lowest point since World War I, according to the TA (Transit Authority). The reason? “There aren’t fewer riders, just fewer who are paying to ride,” explained William McKechnie, president of the Transit Patrolman’s Benevolent Association. A confidential TA survey revealed that nearly 25 percent of all subway riders jump over turnstiles or slip through “slam gates,” cheating the TA out of nearly $200 million a year. Others use metal slugs instead of subway tokens. Then, one month after the state of Connecticut issued a 17.5-cent turnpike token that is the same size as the 75-cent subway token, 40,000 of them turned up in subway-fare boxes. Among the first 10 users arrested were 2 lawyers and several business executives.
● Pocket radios and cassette players with lightweight headphones are producing more than just sweet music to the ear. “There can be no doubt that these units have the potential for inducing a permanent bilateral sensorineural hearing loss—especially if they are used at a volume setting of 4 (on a 1 to 10 scale) or above for extended periods,” writes Dr. Arnold Katz in a recent issue of New England Journal of Medicine. At level 4 on most such machines, the sound at the earphones is 94 to 104 decibels, depending on the type of music played. Yet, by industrial standards, exposure to sound levels of over 100 decibels for two hours or 95 decibels for four hours is considered hazardous. Katz found that people often turn their sets up to 6 or 7 to block out street noise. His advice is to keep the volume below level 4. “There’s nothing we can do after hearing loss happens,” he warns.
China’s “Only” Child Syndrome
● One child per family may help China stem its population tide, but it is also creating a problem of its own—a generation of spoiled “only” children. To push the plan, the government rewards one-child parents with bonuses and special housing, medical and educational privileges. The result? “Single children are the sun in a family, and parents and grandparents are planets orbiting the sun,” says China Daily. Consequently, “some only children never learn to care for others. When in kindergarten, they quarrel with their friends and refuse to share their toys.” In an effort “to make parents stop doting on their little darlings,” the government is distributing millions of copies of books and pamphlets on the subject of bringing up “only” children.
● Two Purdue University food scientists have tested the capability of microwave ovens to kill bacteria in turkeys. The scientists injected turkeys with three common forms of bacteria. Tests revealed that the microwave oven did not kill all the disease-causing bacteria. Said Bala Swaminathan, assistant professor of foods and nutrition: “At this point I can’t recommend cooking turkey in microwave ovens. Microwave ovens cook quickly, and the heating is not uniform. The turkey was done as far as tenderness and taste was concerned, but was not as free of bacteria as turkey cooked in a conventional oven.”
Third World Traffic Deaths
● According to a survey by Britain’s Transport and Road Research Laboratory, highway accidents take more than 250,000 lives each year in third world nations. The survey found, for example, that in Nigeria, which tops the list in highway deaths, the fatality rate is 234 persons per 10,000 vehicles per year, compared with 3 in Britain. In Bangkok, 52 percent of drivers go through red lights at intersections, and only one percent of drivers in Surabaja, Indonesia, stop at pedestrian crossings. Poor roads, dilapidated and overloaded vehicles, and careless pedestrians are also cited as principal causes.
Employee Time Stealing
● On the average, each office or factory worker in the U.S. wasted or “stole” 4 hours and 8 minutes per week in 1982, according to a study covering 325 corporations, conducted by Robert Half, a New York executive. Such time stealing may involve coming to work late, leaving early, stretching lunch hours and coffee breaks, socializing and making personal phone calls during working hours. They add up to six 35-hour workweeks per person per year, costing U.S. business $125 billion a year, more than losses due to arson, stealing, fraud and embezzlement combined. Half calls this “an enormous threat to the entire U.S. economy,” and says it “erodes the nation’s productivity and feeds inflation.”
Wash Your Hands, Doc!
● Hospital patients should start telling their doctors and nurses to wash their hands before touching their patients. At least that is the recommendation of infection-control expert Maryanne McGuckin and intensive-care-unit director Dr. Richard Albert. In a study of two hospitals, Albert found that “doctors handled urine bags, changed intravenous dressings and adjusted respiratory equipment without washing before each procedure,” according to American Health magazine. Each year, 2 million cases of infections occur in U.S. hospitals.
Pension for the Dead
● The U.S. Office of Personnel Management is responsible for sending out pension checks to retired civil service employees each month. But, according to Congressman Les Aspin, many of the recipients are not only retired but also dead. “A cross-check of Social Security records shows that pension checks totaling $8.4 million were sent to 682 dead people,” reports The New York Times. Included among them was one who had died more than 16 years ago. The congressman reportedly has been pressing a number of federal agencies regarding the matter. But “we still haven’t gotten satisfactory replies” from all concerned, says a spokesman.